Just Graduated and Can't Find a Job? Give Your Gap

So you're graduating into a tough economy, and job prospects are bleak. Or maybe you just want to take a break before going on to grad school. So what can you do with your "gap year"?

This is what a group of University of California-San Diego grads did: first, they created a website and organization called that serves as a resource for recent grads who want to volunteer their time, effort and skills to non-profit organizations around the world. Then in January they sent a team of four recent grads to volunteer at projects in Asia.

The group of four women, who volunteered their time and energy to 12 social and medical projects in the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal and China, have just wrapped up their four months of work, posting updates of their experiences on the website as they traveled.

"We wanted to do something meaningful with this time," said group co-founder, Kimberly Ang. "Unfortunately we graduated into a really rough economy. But we saw great opportunities to volunteer and use that 'gap year' time to give back to society while gaining skills and a broader understanding of the world."

Ang added, "This trip and the local people we worked with have inspired us more than we could have imagined. We had the chance to work with people who are passionate about their work and purpose."

The team volunteered at a broad range of non-profits including medical, environmental and civil rights groups, centers for children with disabilities, and public diplomacy organizations. The team concluded its work earlier this month at Magic Hospital in Beijing, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for seriously ill children.

While Ang and her three team members traveled and volunteered overseas, the GiveYourGap staff and interns in the U.S. worked to expand the website by gathering individual stories of gap year experiences and reaching out to local U.S. and international communities. The website also tracked the progress of the GiveYourGap team, posting their experiences in print and video.

"We believe that our GiveYouGap team had a real impact on the organizations they served, and also provided a great example to other "gappers" who want to travel, give back, learn and grow," said Joeva Rock, the group's San Francisco-based marketing and outreach director, who is also a recent UC-San Diego graduate. "Gappers, we believe in you and are determined to find ways to help you make an impact too!"

She added: "The response to our site has been incredibly positive, and is designed to make it easier for people to find the right opportunity for them to volunteer during their gap year."